Cocaine is an addictive stimulant, which is from the coca plant. It can also be prepared synthetically in a lab to provide similar effects. While it has built a reputation for addiction and negative side effects, it is also used in medical circumstances as an anesthetic. It is only in such circumstance that it can be used legally. Users who have used it medically are not likely to develop tolerance for the drug.
Cocaine’s appearance is a white powder. Methods of administration vary. An individual can take it orally, inhale it, intravenously, or intranasal. Its high potential for abuse is because of its effects. It provides a rush that many get excited over. However, prolonged use leads to an addiction with serious psychological, physical, and mental damage. Some effects are dependent whereas others are interdependent on each other.
Many start to use cocaine not as a getaway drug like most illegal stimulant drugs. Many take it out of curiosity alongside other factors such as environmental, biological, and psychological risk factors. Considering its pricing in the market, cocaine is noted to attract the financially stable people. In this, many of the users appear to be in their late twenties. Others simply have a well off background that allows them to make purchases.
Cocaine is an illegal drug and selling it for recreational use is very common in the streets. A higher number of people end up taking cocaine to act as a rebel, take a risk, to get high, and/or simply to have fun. Its street names include blow, powder, coke, and china white. Cocaine abuse in the long-term will cause an addiction with long-term effects. Many of the long-term effects are fatal.
Why is Cocaine Addictive?
Cocaine is addictive due to its effects on the brain. Naturally, your brain is capable of producing dopamine, which is responsible for feelings such as pleasure and movement. The abuse of cocaine alters the production of dopamine, and in the long-term, natural production stops.
The lack of dopamine pushed individuals to addiction, because they will rely on cocaine to provide similar effects. The long-term effects may be irreversible especially if the individual persists on increasing the intake quantity.
Some of the signs that show cocaine use include but are not limited to dilated pupils, nosebleeds, weight loss, excitability, difficulty in swallowing, tooth decay etc. Other non-physical related signs include financial problems, risky behavior, and a loss of interest in passion.
Long-term Effects of Cocaine Use on your Health
Long-term cocaine use comes with adverse side effects on your health. It has both direct and indirect effects on certain parts of the body. The effects are normally severe and when they are neglected, they may be irreversible and they can lead to death. Health related side effects affect most of the major organs of the body.
When most of the organs are failing or they are not functioning, as they should, the body cannot sustain itself. This is the reason the long-term effects of cocaine are fatal. The following are the health related effects of long-term cocaine abuse.
• Cardiovascular Damage (Effects on the heart)
The heart is a sensitive organ with a major role to play in the body. It is one of the most severely damaged organs by cocaine users. After cocaine intake, the heart is forced to work overtime. By overworking your heart, it causes the heart to age faster as compared to when it is normal heart beating rate.
Cocaine overworks the heart because it causes a spike in the heartbeat and a constriction of the blood vessels. The constriction increases high blood pressure, which raises several diseases. These include cardiomyopathy, ischemia, and arrhythmia. The following are ways in which cocaine can damage the cardiovascular system.
> Blood clotting which will lead to a deep vein thrombosis, a heart attack, or a stroke
> Chest pains because it is capable of tightening the blood vessels
> Permanently increased blood pressure
> An irregular heart beat
• Respiratory and pulmonary damage (effects on the lungs)
Lung damage occurs due to inhalation of the drug. Due to the damages, people tend to develop lower respiratory problems. These may include chronic bronchitis and pneumonia. Cocaine will constrict the veins in the lungs. In addition, it will destroy alveolar walls which are responsible for boosting the transportation of oxygen. This means that oxygen will not enter the blood stream as desired.
By damaging the lungs, it is likely to cause slow breathing. You will then notice shortness in breath even after very small tasks. This will be accompanied by wheezing, chest pains, as well as coughing. Related diseases will include acute respiratory distress, asthma, and tuberculosis.
Persistent continuous use of cocaine leads to more fatal situations such as pulmonary hemorrhages, barotrauma, and pulmonary infections. Cases of asthma are also very common with cocaine abuse. Chronically abusing cocaine may lead to eosinophilic pheumonitis, which comes with the following symptoms.
> Black sputum
> Constant pain
> A raise in body temperature
> Diffuse wheezing sound
> A rapid increase of white blood cells
Also related to the respiratory system, is the effect of cocaine on sinuses. This is more common for individuals who snort cocaine. Persistent use eventually results in possible infections of the upper respiratory system and nasal scar tissue.
When an individual snorts cocaine, it is absorbed into the mucous membrane. This will irritate the membrane and cause inflammation. This exposes the nasal mucosa and sinuses to have infections. Without treatment and continuous use of cocaine will lead to a hole between the nostrils. This condition is commonly known as a deviated nasal septum.
• Brain damage
The short-term effects of cocaine on the brain may give you a rush and excitement which is normally harmless. However, persistent cocaine use will cause severe long-term effects. It will start by stopping the natural production of dopamine in the brain. As users’ persist on its use, cocaine abuse will lead to depression, paranoia, and psychosis. You may also feel a sense of restlessness.
Cocaine constricts blood vessels and in turn, the body will not supply sufficient amounts of blood and oxygen. Insufficient supplies of oxygen to the brain will cause general brain damage. Cocaine also ages the brain thus cases of dementia. Persistent long-term use will lead to memory loss problems. More brain damage from cocaine will include:
> Mini-strokes which will develop into a stroke
> A change in neurotransmitter production and absorption
> Changes in lobe functioning which lead to problems in decision-making, poor vocabulary, inability to focus, and cases of memory loss
> Cerebral atrophy (shrinking of the brain)
> Cerebral vasculitis which is the inflammation of blood vessels in the brain
• Gastrointestinal damage (effects on the stomach and intestine)
Cocaine abuse will reduce blood flow into the gastrointestinal tract. Reduced blood flow causes tears and ulcers. Ulcers will occur because of a change in the pH of the stomach. It is also evident that cocaine abusers develop digestion problems.
In turn, it will affect their diet, nourishment, and you will notice signs of drastic weight loss. In addition, abusing cocaine will show signs of abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, as well as bowel tissue decay.
Extreme cases lead to ischemic colitis, which causes fatal digestive problems and even death. This problem causes the large intestine to experience injuries due to inflammation.
• Kidney damage
Long-term use of cocaine abuse causes a breakdown of the muscle tissue thus causing rhabdomyolysis. In turn, it releases a dangerous protein referred to as myoglobin into the blood. This harmful protein damages the kidney.
Signs and symptoms of rhabdomyolysis include less urine production with a change of color to a reddish shade, a feeling of weakness, as well as muscle aches. Other long-term effects of cocaine abuse on the kidneys include kidney disease and renal failure.
Related Long-term Effects
The above are the health related long-term effects of cocaine abuse and the body organs you are likely to destroy. Below are the related long-term effects of cocaine abuse. They affect both the user and their surrounding family and friends. Though they may not realize it, they are rather cumbersome to recover from these effects.
• Skin irritability
Long-term cocaine users will indicate signs of “coke bugs” which users believe are microscopic parasites. They see them on their skin that they say causes irritability and thus the reason you will see them scratching intensely. This will in turn cause bleeding which will result in scabs and scars.
It is important to note that, the parasites they indicate to see are actually non-existent. This is the reason they will constantly scratch because a non-existent parasite will not disappear.
• Financial collapse
Cocaine as indicated is a relatively costly drug in the market. Many people term it as the “rich man’s” drug for this purpose. However, it tends to consume more than people actually think. Considering that the effects of cocaine are short-lived (a few minutes), people tend to consume more with the aim of reliving the effects repeatedly. This is more so for cocaine abusers.
Remember, constant use of cocaine will prevents the natural production of dopamine. This means that you will rely on the drug to provide similar effect as dopamine. As an addictive drug, you will find yourself spending more. The problem is that it is never enough and thus the rise in cases of an overdose.
Despite being termed as a rich man’s drug, it has financially disabled rich and stable men and women. While people start with a little amount of cocaine (which will relatively not cost much), it quickly demands for an increase in dosage. You are less likely to notice the increase in demand.
• Social isolation
Just as like many other addictive illegal drugs, abusers tend to isolate themselves. Cocaine abusers are no different. They will stay away from family and friends. This is inclusive of their spouses and children who they can go as far as neglecting them. These people will notice that there is a problem but despite their efforts to try to talk to the user, they will get no response or they will show violent behavior.
The only company they may feel comfortable around is that of other cocaine or other drug abusers. This is the reason many crack houses are crowded with cocaine abusers. They always feel like other people do not understand them or their needs. Plus, the thought of others undermining them pushes them away.
By isolating themselves, they end up increasing their intake with a ready supply of the drug. You will find someone leaving his or her amazing jobs and home to stay in a dump that is not conducive for human use.
• Lawful implications
The lawful effects are both from the process involved of buying the drug as well as from the criminal acts many get involved. First, the process of buying the drug is illegal and one must be very secretive on how to go about it. It is a risk for both the buyer and the seller. In the event that the law catches up with you for this reason, it is not easy for you and those in your lives.
It is not easy for the user because they will serve time in prison. In addition, their secretive endeavors are exposed. On the other hand, it is not easy for family members and friends, as they understand where the problem lies. Accepting such circumstances is not simple.
When the drug becomes too costly and a user can no longer afford it, they will end up involving themselves in acts of theft and violence to obtain finances. This is the problem with an addiction. As long as the body is craving for the drug, you will make sure that you meet its desires. Cocaine users are more likely to be involved in criminal acts. Sometimes these criminal acts are not just for the money but also just to satisfy a thrill. This is because of poor decision-making abilities.
• Professional or education
Depending on the stage, a cocaine user is in, in their life, long-term abuse of cocaine may discontinue it. Students will age their brain and cause memory lapses, which in turn causes poor results in school. This also applies to employees. They will be unable to meet targets at the workplace. In many occasions, they will not see the need to go to work and this will lead to absenteeism.
This interrupts the expected flow of success of an individual. A lack of proper education or an ending career will then affect the individual psychologically. They will in turn stick to cocaine abuse with the aim of triggering the feeling of relaxation and excitement. Their reliance on the drug increases because they feel that it is their only way out thus leading to an addiction and overdose.
• Blood borne diseases
Cocaine abusers especially those who prefer to inject the drug, have shown an increase in the number of blood borne diseases. These diseases include HIV and hepatitis. They arise because the users consider unsafe injection use.
They will share needles with the hope of saving to buy more cocaine. Sometimes, they simply enjoy passing the needle round the table and not because they do not have needles or that, they cannot afford them.
Alternatively, cocaine users develop poor decision-making skills. As a result, they engage themselves in risky sexual encounters. Cocaine also enhances people’s sexual drive making it easier for them to take the risk. It is easier to spread diseases through the body because cocaine tends to impair the body’s immune system.
• Tooth decay
Cocaine users will develop gradual tooth decay. Cocaine abuse in the long-term wills mostly cases of irreversible tooth decay. It will also stain the teeth. This is especially for individuals who choose to choose to take it orally.
The more you take the more your body demands as your body develops a tolerance for the drug. Eventually, your body cannot do without it for it to function. As a result, people end up taking more than they need. There has been an increase in cases of an overdose. The following are overdose effects of cocaine.
• Cardiac arrest and heart attacks
As shown above, long-term cocaine abuse affects the heart and the cardiovascular system. This leads to gradual damage. In the event that the person takes an overdose, this means that the heart has to work not just overtime but also very fast to try to remedy the situation. However, since the cardiovascular system is already weak, it fails to meet the demand.
This will lead to a heart attack or a cardiac arrest. This situation requires urgent medical attention. Considering that many cocaine abusers tend to isolate themselves, medical aid may not be readily available. The effects may be reversible only if they can find help.
• Liver damage
An overdose may lead to liver injury. This is the blood is suddenly flooded with toxins. Considering that, the function of the liver is to help flush out toxins, the excess of cocaine in the blood stream makes it difficult to flush it out. This leads to acute liver damage. However, an individual can recover from these effects though it will take help.
Cases of stroke are on the increase with cocaine abusers. Considering that, cocaine has a negative effect on so many vital organs on the body, overdosing will lead to a stroke. An overdose means that the user ingested more than their body can take. In this, it can shut down the functionality of the body systems.
Individuals who have taken an overdose will experience seizures. This negative side effect cannot go unnoticed as the individual acts as if they are being shocked by an electric power. Seizures occur due to the effect on the brain electrical system. An overdose will lead to an over trigger the brain which shocks the individual.
• Respiratory arrest
More common with people who inhale or snort the drug, there are very high chances of experiencing a respiratory attack. The respiratory tract cannot hold all the cocaine. In addition to a weak lung, an overdose will cause a respiratory arrest. This will cause difficulty in breathing and in many circumstances; medical help is required to revive the individual.
A fatal circumstance from an overdose is the death of the individual. It shuts down the body system. It is able to shut down the body systems because the long-term abuse of cocaine tends to gradually weaken vital body organs. In this, the body cannot defend itself from an overdose. It may start with a seizure and if not medically attended as an emergency, death is the alternate effect. One of the leading causes of death by cocaine users is a heart attack.
Cases of overdose also occur because of using the drug with other dangerous substances. This may include alcohol or a mixture of other drugs. They cause a reaction that can be irreversible. One of the most deadly mixtures is that of cocaine and heroin.
The long-term effects of using cocaine other than for relaxation and excitement are fatal even over a short period. Continuous use of the drug leads to an addiction. An addiction will pave way to health, social, financial, legal, as well as professional negative effects.
In addition, you will experience psychological (such as seeing parasites that are non-existent), health related (organ failure and blood borne diseases), and physical (physical harm) side effects. Initially, one may feel like it is beneficial but the long-term use of the drug will lead to more negative effects with the majority negatively affecting an individual’s functionality.
Cocaine is an illegal drug and whereas it is prohibited for use, many buy it off the market. It will not only weaken your body but also get you into trouble with the law. It comes with various street names to prevent people from understanding the intended product. Its long-term use comes with diverse effects as indicated above.